How to Get Your Way like Toddlers and Dogs

It went like this:

‘Mom… can I watch something on the iPad?’
‘But mom, can I have it? Can I have the iPad?
‘But I want to show you something. Please, can I have the iPad? Pleeeeaaaaaase?’
‘Ok. fine. But only for 3 minutes.’
‘5 minutes?’ (Head tilts, Eyes get wide. Blink. Blink.)
‘No. 3 minutes.’
’10 minutes?’
‘What?! No! Who taught you to negotiate?’
’10 minutes?’
‘No! Ok, fine 5 minutes. But you better go to bed after that!’
‘Ok, mommy!’
‘Mommy… i love you.’
(Mommy’s eyes roll, feeling slightly had) ‘I love you too.’

WNT32S7DE1Anyone who has had a toddler has experienced first hand that they are master negotiators. We ourselves were once master negotiators as toddlers. In the progress of humanity, I’d like to think that success traits such as this transcend through generations. But somehow, this particular one got suppressed over time. Instead, as we grew up, we became more and more complacent. We succumbed to the systems of our society and gradually learned to settle for the path of least resistance.

Well, I’m of the firm belief that we can learn something valuable from anyone, and especially these pint-sized cutie-pies (which is an inherent negotiating tactic within itself.. being cute, that is.)

So I took inventory of all the times, I was requested of something I really didn’t want to relinquish, that was against my usual stance, and all the times I caved. I came up with these tactics from our toddler torpedoes that can be applied to career and business, even when you’re a grown up.


Be Cute.

This is definitely interpreted differently in the grown-up scenario. In one of my previous blog posts, “How to Harness the Goodwill of Food,” I mentioned that when people like you, they trust you. When they trust you, they follow you. The corollary to this is ‘When they like you, they will more likely give you your way.’ (Ask any hottie out there trying to buy something.) Being cute is obviously not being immature, or flirty with your grown up peers. And you certainly don’t need to look like Zach Efron to get your way all the time. It is being amiable, and well-liked. As Dale Carnegie put it in his classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” ‘…if you want honey, don’t kick over the hive.’

Dale Carnegie - Gather Honey

Tantrums and bullying may work once in a while, but the long-term impact is, that it alienates you from your network. Who wants to be around one who’s whining and a being miserable cow all the time?

The question then becomes, how do we become more amiable individuals? Here are a couple of my favourite techniques:


1. Be Genuinely Interested in People

Let’s face it. The person in whom everyone is most interested is, of course, themselves. It’s human nature that we naturally gravitate to people who are most interested in ourselves.

Adrian Ward published an interesting article entitled “The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favourite Topic” a couple years ago indicating that on average 60% of conversations talking about themselves. Where social media is involved, this stat jumps to 80%.

We can capitalize on this little phenomenon by counter-intuitively shifting the focus of the conversation from ourselves to the other person. Ask the other person about their weekend, and then really tune into how they took their kids out to the dog park.

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Then genuinely look shocked when they tell you how Fluffy ran into the river and almost got swept away by the current.  Respond to how brave Billy was jumping into the water grabbing Fluffy by the collar, pulling her to safety.

It doesn’t actually take much to be genuinely interested in people. You just have to well… care. Everyone’s got something interesting and unexpected about them.  Everyone’s got something that makes them special and interesting. You just have to figure out what it is. Once you’ve found it, you’re automatically genuinely interested in them as a person. They pick up on this instantly. They become endeared to you because you’re now their fan.

2. Smile and Remember their Name

One of the easiest ways to care, and endear people to you is to smile at them and remember people’s names. Be happy when you see them. Refer to them by name. Most people default to this: “Oh, I’m good with faces, but I’m terrible with names.” Well, honey, the money is in the names. Faces, quite frankly, don’t aren’t worth anything. A few weeks ago, I took a course that taught me a little trick for remembering people’s names. Here it is: When people tell you their name, you visualize something out of the ordinary on them, that is related to their name.

For example, say you just met this guy. His name is Troy…. which sounds like a troll. So you imagine that he’s got troll hair.


Here’s another. Her name is Delores…. which rhymes with Tyrannosaurus. See what I mean?


One more. Her name is Eliza. Eyes… get it?


Now every time you see any of these folks, all you can picture is the troll hair, the T-Rex, and her extraordinary doe-like eyes. Am I right? Ok moving on.


What we can Learn from the Furry Four-legged

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Beatrix on Halloween, 2011

Let’s switch to Beatrix’s master negotiating technique. If there’s one thing I learned from my dog, it’s that when she wants something, she doesn’t give up. She knows what she wants. She’s committed. She’ll often  hide her bone in our laundry basket, unbeknownst to us. All night long, she will sit in front of the laundry basket and yelp quietly.  With a forlorn look on her face, she’ll continue until you help her dig through the laundry and uncover her bone. Her focus is incredible! If you’ve ever played fetch with a dog, you’ll know that her eyes never, and I mean never leave the ball. Not when it’s in your hand, not when you pretend to hide it, not when you fake throw it. Laser focus is on that ball. Nothing, not even her own mother will come between her and her ball. She knows she wants it and, regardless of time, space and the world at large, she is committed to fetching that ball. She never gives up. Then when you throw it, she darts off like an arrow, barrelling anything out of the way to retrieve that ball. So what lessons has Beatrix taught us?


Know What you Want and Focus on it

Well.. for starters, figure out what you want. Little do you know, but you actually make the rules in your life. Too many people live by other people’s rules: their parents, friends, society’s by and large. You figure out what you want. No one else has your interest at heart more than yourself. Define it. Picture it. Throw out constraints. To help frame this, I’ll ask myself three questions:

  1. What will make this day incredibly amazing?
  2. If anything were possible, what would I like to have in my life?
  3. What are three things that I can do such that when I hit the sack tonight, I would feel an enveloping sense of satisfaction… that this turned out to be a great day?

All the times that I clearly defined what I wanted, the universe has never failed me. I’m always pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, the times where I was lazy in clarifying the picture, is when I get something I don’t want or expect, sometimes even the exact opposite. Understandable, though, no? You don’t know what you want, so you leave a lot up to chance. Chance, as you know, may or may not work out in your favour. That’s the difference between living life by design or living life by default.

Focus on what you want. Spend 10 minutes each day, quiet your mind, close your eyes, and visualize what being, doing, or having that thing. Visualize every little detail with utmost clarity.

Say, you wanted to go to Hong Kong. You’ve never been, but you’ve heard of the magnificent night view of the city at the top of Victoria Peak. The massive array of sparkle from all the skyscrapers of the city that never sleeps…the boats crossing from the Hong Kong island to the Kowloon Penninsula. You envision the humidity of Hong Kong, how it hugs your skin like a light blanket, while breathing in the cool night air. You can smell the foliage from the mountain, coupled with a slight brininess of the sea. You see the mist of a cloud gradually drifts across the water below. You can see the glow of the moon in the distance.

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Now, feel what it feels like to be there. Feel the excitement of the island that never sleeps. The hustle-bustle of the citizens and the slightly curt attitude they have towards foreigners…. too busy for even a quick smile to a stranger as the city pushes them along their way home. It’s really an amazing place. I love Hong Kong.

The point here though is not only to visualize what it is that you wanted to achieve, and hence believe that it is possible. But also feel what it feels like to be there already.


How do we Apply it to our Career?

Let’s apply this to your profession now. Let’s say you’re in the process of negotiating for your salary, or bill rate. Step 1. Know what you want before going in. Often our starting point for our salary is what we currently have. This could be ok as a starting point, or you can scrap it altogether, and figure out what the ideal salary is that you want. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t some random number that you pluck out of the sky. It’s can’t be because Step 2 is Believe that it is possible, which I glossed over in our Beatrix illustration. If you were to ask Beatrix whether or not she believes it is possible for you to throw the ball for her, what do you think she would say? In dog language, it would be an unwavering, resounding YES! Otherwise, she would not even bother. She’d take her ball in her mouth, go curl up on the couch and take a nap.

Ok, back to you. If youWHWZKYQSDR wanted to set a salary for which you can believe is possible, it’s gotta have sound justification for why you would need it. In my article What’s Your Burn Rate and Why should you Care, I explain what your ‘burn rate’ is exactly. I illustrate step by step how to calculate your burn rate. Armed with your burn rate, you have the absolute floor rate that you can possibly accept. But you focus on what it is that you want using the same method. Focus on it. Fixate on it. Visualize what life is like when you have it.You can further justify this by finding out what the market is, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Chances are, you won’t much get very accurate information. Either that, or the rate wouldn’t apply to your skillset, and situation. Every time I’ve done this, I actually negotiate myself down to whatever bogus market rate before I even meet with anyone. I then think how impossible it is to get what I want. I’ve already lost the game before I started. Don’t do this. On the other hand, all the times I’ve been confident enough to say no, and  communicated the value that I bring to the table with this rate, I’ve always got what I wanted. Every single time. You will get your rate. But sometimes it’s not in the form that you expect. Often it can come in the form of a salary or rate increase with some other sort of non-dollar incentive. Or it can come in the form of another opportunity altogether. You worry about the what. Leave it to the universe to take care of the how.

Step 3: Go for Gold. As Beatrix shot off like an arrow to retrieve that ball, you create tunnel-vision for that rate that you’ve defined. This is the execution part, which is the engine that powers entire ‘getting what you want‘ vehicle. Without this action, it’s all just pie in the sky. Nothing ever just comes to you as you sit there passively. You have to apply for the job, set the appointment, follow up with the recruiter. Every and any action you think of that you need to do, you do it. This is the only way you can see the path.  Go for it relentlessly. Like if you’re fighting for oxygen under-water.


It’s funny how universal truths often can be found in the folks you would least expect. Toddlers, dogs… they go for it. They have nothing to lose. They have everything to gain upon getting that 2 extra minutes of iPad time, or a small orange ball. It may seem trivial to anybody else. Who cares? Like them, only you know what’s good for you. Only you can go for what’s good for you.


  • Ella Tam

    Reply Reply June 18, 2016

    Learn something new everyday. I love your postive attitude and confidence in life. I smile when I read about ‘remembering names.’ It is ‘me’. It is a pleaure to read your article. Great work!

    • Cat Lam

      Reply Reply June 22, 2016

      Awww thanks so much!!! It really means a lot to me that you read my posts. Thank you for carving out some time out of your day to do this! Cheers!

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